City expands partnership with Weight Watchers

A city partnership with Weight Watchers has expanded, providing low-cost access to weight loss assistance to more of Baltimore’s low-income population.

Baltimore was one of three cities — Racine, Wis., and York, Pa., are the others — selected as a grant recipient in the Weight Watchers and U.S. Conference of Mayors Health Communities Grant Program. The total value of the subsidized memberships is $1 million across the three cities, plus $25,000 each straight from Weight Watchers.

The grant will fund an expansion of the B’More Fit for Healthy Babies program, which provides Weight Watchers memberships and exercise classes to low-income mothers with at least one child under age 2.

Thanks to the expansion, the program will now serve men and seniors as well at a the Zeta Center for Healthy and Active Aging in Park Heights. It was previously available only to women at weekly meeting sites in Druid Hill and Patterson Park.

The expanded program will allow low-income residents of Baltimore to get heavily-subsidized memberships to Weight Watchers, as well as fitness instruction. To qualify, residents must have a body mass index of 25 or higher (classified as “overweight”) and must receive assistance from a federally subsidized program like WIC or Medicaid.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Weight Watchers celebrity spokesperson Jennifer Hudson celebrated the launch of the expansion Tuesday at the Zeta Center.

Rawlings-Blake has personal experience with weight loss, having undergone a transformation during her time as mayor. She mentioned her decision to lose weight at Tuesday’s announcement, and a Weight Watchers leader she has worked with spoke as well.

Noxzema takes its place in the sun

The Baltimore Museum of Industry is set to make a silky smooth acquisition.

The BMI announced Monday that it will receive from Unilever a significant collection of historical documents, photos, jars and packaging for Noxzema.

Baltimore Museum of IndustryBaltimore pharmacist George A. Bunting created the skincare product in the early 1900s as a remedy for sunburn. Over time, it became used as a general facial cleanser, and to treat eczema, acne and other skin conditions.

Bunting later on expanded his product line beyond the cold cream, making shaving cream and launching Covergirl cosmetics. The company changed its name in 1966 from Noxzema Chemical Company to Noxell, which was acquired by Procter & Gamble in 1989.

In 2010, Unilever bought the Noxzema brand from Procter & Gamble for $81 million.

Noxzema products are no longer created in Maryland, but Procter & Gamble continues to use its Hunt Valley location to make Cover Girl, Max Factor and Olay products.

Some of the Noxzema artifacts are on display in the BMI pharmacy exhibit, and the rest are catalogued in the museum archives for historians and researchers to access.

So here’s to Bunting, whose easy, breezy, beautiful innovations brought business to Baltimore.

EARN awards 29 planning grants

In the fight against the skills gap, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has packed its first punch into 29 organizations.

DLLR announced Monday morning the partnerships to whom it awarded planning grants through the EARN Maryland program.

EARN (Employment Advancement Right Now) is the state’s attempt at creating better, more specialized workforce training programs.

The program will use $4.5 million in state funding, going toward the planning phase and an implementation phase. The average planning grant award was $22,000.

All applicants were required to consist of at least two employers and two related organizations. This would potentially allow for the plans formulated to benefit an entire industry in the state, rather than a singular employer.

ConstructionThe awardees include partnerships in biotechnology, construction, healthcare and manufacturing, among other sectors.

“The 29 emerging Strategic Industry Partnerships awarded EARN Planning Grants today represent a diversity of industries, regions, partner organizations, and target populations as rich as the state of Maryland,” said Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Leonard Howie in a release about the awards.

The awardees are (drum roll please)…

1)      Baltimore Biotechnology Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc., and Baltimore BioWorks, Inc.

Co-Conveners:                  BioTechnical Institute of Maryland, Inc., and Baltimore BioWorks, Inc.


2)      Montgomery County Biotechnology Training Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Montgomery College

Convener:                           Montgomery College

3)      Prince Georges and Charles County Construction Industry Partnership for Jobs

Lead Applicant(s):            Finishing Trades Institute

Convener:                           Washington DC Building Trades Council

4)      BIM Technology for the Incumbent Worker in the Construction Industry

Lead Applicant(s):            Towson University Division of Innovation and Applied Research

Convener:                           Maryland Center for Construction Education & Innovation

5)      Project Jump Start Construction Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Associated Builders and Contractors Baltimore Metro Chapter

Convener:                           Associated Builders and Contractors Baltimore Metro Chapter

6)      Central Maryland Cyber/IT Consortium

Lead Applicant(s):            Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation, Inc.

Convener:                           Dunbar Digital Armor

7)      Water and Wastewater Career Development Partnership of Central Maryland

Lead Applicant(s):            Maryland Environmental Service (MES)

Convener:                           Maryland Environmental Service (MES)

8)      Baltimore Regional Green Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Civic Works

Convener:                           Civic Works

9)      Northeast  Maryland Health Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation

Convener:                           Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation

10)   Ready to Care: An Eastern Shore Partnership to Train Healthcare Workers

Lead Applicant(s):            Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center

Convener:                           Eastern Shore Area Health Education Center

11)   Montgomery County Healthcare Practitioners: Rx for Employability

Lead Applicant(s):            Montgomery County Development Corporation

Convener:                           Montgomery County Development Corporation

12)   Baltimore Healthcare Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BACH)

Co-Conveners:                  BACH and Center for Urban Families

13)   Southern Maryland Healthcare Industry Alliance

Lead Applicant(s):            Tri County Council

Convener:                           College of Southern Maryland

14)   Prince George’s and Charles Counties Healthcare Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Associated Black Charities

Convener:                           Associated Black Charities

15)   Health Information Technology Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Baltimore County Community College (CCBC)

Convener:                           CCBC Continuing Education and Economic Development Division (CEED)

16)   Mobile Health Technologies in the Baltimore/Washington Corridor

Lead Applicant(s):            Howard Community College

Convener:                           Maryland Health Tech Coalition

17)   Baltimore Regional Culinary/ Hospitality Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Humanim

Convener:                           Humanim

18)   Western Maryland IT Center for Excellence

Lead Applicant(s):            Allegany College

Convener:                           Exclamation Labs!


19)   Maryland Mid-Western Transportation & Logistics (MOVE) Partnership

Lead Applicant(s)             Montgomery College

Co-Conveners:                  Hagerstown Community College and Montgomery College

20)   Chesapeake Transportation and Logistics Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Cecil College

Convener:                           Mid-Atlantic Transportation and Logistics Institute

21)   Manufacturing Workforce Partnership of Frederick County

Lead Applicant(s):            Wright Manufacturing

Convener:                           Wright Manufacturing


22)   Shore Manufacturing Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Chesapeake College

Convener:                           Upper Shore Workforce Investment Board

23)   Marine Trades Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Marine Trade Association of Maryland

Convener:                           Marne Trades Association of Maryland

24)   Maryland Manufacturing Incumbent Workforce Training Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Convener:                           Maryland MEP


25)   Maryland Manufacturing Boot Camp

Lead Applicant(s):            Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)

Convener:                           Maryland MEP

26)   Maryland Offshore Wind Strategic Industry Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            Humanim

Convener:                           Business Network for Maryland Offshore Wind

27)   Purple Line Skills Training Partnership

Lead Applicant(s):            CASA de Maryland, Inc.

Convener:                           CASA de Maryland, Inc.

28)   Building Employer Led Alliances for Careers in Hospitality (BEACHES)

Lead Applicant(s):            Wor-Wic Community College

Co-Conveners:                  The Governor’s Economic Development Committee of Ocean City Maryland & The Carousel Group

29)   21st Century Technology Business Services Partnership for Prince George’s County

Lead Applicant(s):            Agemo Technology

Co-Convener:                    Prince George’s Community College & Bowie State University



Health care industry has been eating its spinach

Health care is the only major industry in Maryland with a workforce that increased consistently every year for the past 12 years (with the exception of a few quarters in which employment was steady or dipped by a nearly undetectable amount).

The December special publication “Doing Business in Maryland: Outlook 2014” features snapshots of 13 major industries, such as manufacturing, information technology and construction. For each industry, it provides a graph showing employment levels and rate of growth over time.

The information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and was compiled by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.

Health CareThe report also includes essays by Maryland’s business leaders, stories about up-and-coming business trends and in-depth analyses of the sectors driving the state economy.

Of the 13 industries featured, education looks the most similar to health care —perhaps unsurprising, given the close relationship between universities and medical systems.

The size of the education workforce increased steadily over time. There were no major fluctuations but there were plenty of visible blips in both directions. On the health care graph, there is only one visible (though small) decrease in employment: the first quarter of 2010.

I do want to differentiate between the rate of growth and the increase in the employment level. The dotted line on the graph shows the percent change in employment during a given quarter compared to the same quarter of the previous year.

Some fluctuation occurred in the rate of growth in health care employment. Between the fourth quarters of 2011 and 2012, the industry grew at a rate of 2.0 percent, adding 6,848 employees to payrolls, primarily in ambulatory care services.

For the past dozen years, the growth rate always stayed somewhere between about 1.3 percent and 3.8 percent.

That means that at any given point, there were always more health care jobs than there were at that time during the previous year.

The other 12 industries featured in the publication experienced contraction at some point during the last 12 years.

Even bioscience, a hot field in Maryland, is more volatile. Employment exploded in this industry around the turn of the millennium but has since leveled off, and numbers continue to dip up and down.

To examine employment trends in your industry, check out “Doing Business in Maryland.” Let me know which trends you found most intriguing — post in the Comments section or find me on Twitter @TDRAlissa.

Santa in the 410

Focus Telecommunications, a Maryland answering service company, proudly announced earlier this month that it would provide its services to none other than Kris Kringle himself.

Jolly old St. NickGive a call to 410-792-9332, or 1-866-409-1635 if you so prefer, to leave a message for jolly old St. Nick.

That’s right, folks, Santa’s in the 410.

Before they are prompted to leave a message, callers are greeted by a message from Santa Claus, giving a North Pole update, and a reminder to be nice, obey your parents and leave out cookies and reindeer treats.

Focus provides various answering and voice mail services via telephone and Internet. It’s been in business since 1987, with offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The company’s Santa Line premiered in 2009.


What kind of ‘guy’ are you?

When JoS. A. Bank Clothiers, Inc. released its third-quarter earnings this week, CEO R. Neal Black mentioned a recent increase in sales of slim-fit suits, as well as big and tall varieties. These special sizes are one of the company’s five key growth initiatives.

“Anything slim has been their fastest growth area for a couple years,” said Mark Montagna, analyst for Avondale customers who covers Jos. A. Bank. “That’s where the trend is, so it’s good for them.”

The special sizes have helped the company attract new customers, said Black.

Brian G. Rafn, principal at Morgan Dempsey, which owns Jos. A. Bank stock, said attracting new clientele is a good idea, as long as it’s not at the expense of the established shoppers.

“The story has been a switch to try to get a younger guy in the store … your Abercrombie & Fitch guy, that’s your high-testosterone 20-year-old,” said Rafn.

“The problem is the younger guy is unemployed, playing video games in his parents’ basement.”

Sure, Rafn isn’t suggesting that all of these trim-suit wearers are young fellas, and not all young men are unemployed. But he said the established customer with the thicker wallet should not go underserved.

“If you’re going it at the cost of not having inventory for the classic guy … then you’re losing money,” he said. “He’s not a rain-check guy.”

The benefit of attracting the younger customer with fashion-forward slim suits is longer-term, he said — getting them in early, motivating them to shop at Bank not only as the “high-testosterone guy” but later on as the “classic guy.”

In the meantime, perhaps the company can sell a few more suits to another fella: the trendy guy.

The pitching mound: advice from the pros

Preparing for a potentially life-changing pitch? Or maybe you’re just hoping to charm some influential acquaintances at a networking event with your big idea.

No matter the occasion, a few experienced business leaders shared their pitching advice at the TEDCO Entrepreneur Expo. The event dedicated five sessions to this crucial communication skill.

“It’s the door being open or closed,” said Linda Yaswen-Corkery, licensing and commercialization officer for the University of Maryland. “It’s that dramatic.”

TEDCO Entrepreneur ExpoSo what were some of the experts’ suggestions? The tried and true tips for making a great impression? Here is what some of the pitching veterans said at the expo (quotes have been lightly edited for conciseness):

Randy Domolky, managing director of TEDCO:

  • Really none of us knows what is going to happen in the future. If you come to me and try to tell me that you do that’s going to seem somewhat ingenuous and incredible.


Gerard Eldering, founder of InnovateTech Ventures:

  • Come up with some sort of hook or phrase or analogy to open with. That can be really memorable.
  • Be flexible. A pitch isn’t a single script

Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises:

  • Take a long, hour-long deck and take everything you ever wanted to say, put all the answers and illustrations in a PowerPoint, and pick the 30-second pitch out of that.

Kelly Keenan Trumpbour, founder of See Jane Invest:

  • Know your story, know your listener. Have other 30-second pitches for a variety of listeners.
  • If you send an email and it’s so obviously a mass email, I don’t even read it.
  • Your pitch has to be like a commercial aimed at 10-year-olds.

Robbie Melton, director of entrepreneurial innovation at TEDCO:

  • Make it fun. I’ve done drama for years and the best way to really relax is do it in accents (when practicing). It sounds crazy but it works.
  • Use some more of the marketing, less of the technical. It’s not about the tech, it’s “How are you going to make me money?”

And an overriding theme from all five — practice your pitch. Get comfortable talking about the idea and use each pitching opportunity as a learning experience.

Southwest hops on the pre-check bandwagon

Southwest frequent flyers of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, rejoice.

BWISouthwest, the airline of choice for 71 percent of BWI flyers, has joined the TSA pre-check program at BWI/Thurgood Marshall Airport. The airport now has TSA pre-check lanes at checkpoints A, C and D.

As noted in a Maryland Business blog post last week, the pre-check program applies to only a select few customers from each of the participating airlines. These lucky few are spared from taking off shoes, light outerwear and belts, and removing laptops and compliant fluids from their bags.

So you may see more flyers speeding through security at BWI. The TSA also said it will also create an application program later this year, so that even more can enjoy a less cumbersome checkpoint experience.

Site calls University of Maryland underrated for entrepreneurship

Despite high rankings for entrepreneurship from various media outlets, one site says the University of Maryland is highly underrated.

PandoDaily, which aims to be “the site-of-record for that startup root-system,” used its own method for ranking the entrepreneurial quality of colleges, the StartEngine College Index, and decided that UMCP is the second-most underrated school in the country, and the most underrated public institution.

How did they do that? Well, they created a list of every college with 15 or more alumni whose startups got investor funding. They took the total funding to date each startup received and divided that by the number of founders, creating the measurement “capital per founder,” or CPF. From there, they found the median CPF for each school, which was used to determine the ranking.

University of MarylandMaryland’s median CPF was $10.3 million, second in the nation only to Northwestern University. It beat out all of the Ivy Leaguers, of which Princeton University ranked the highest, third place, with a median CPF of $10.1 million.

Although the university’s number of founders, 18, is meager compared to Stanford University’s 207 and Harvard’s 130, it comes down to the amount of money people tended to invest in those startups, which was generally higher at UMCP.

But PandoDaily, why the tone of surprise? Here is how the writer, Howard Marks, reacted to the stat:

“Who saw that coming?  The Terrapins have zero reputation for being an entrepreneurial bunch, but here they are crushing private schools (including the entire Ivy League) on the StartEngine index. Maryland ranks second, with a median IPF of $10.3 million.”

Marks goes on to remind the reader that, after all, Google cofounder Sergey Brin completed undergrad at UMCP. However, perhaps he forgot a little bit more than that.

It’s also alma mater to Ramit Varma, co-founder of Revolution Prep and  Jeong H. Kim, whose electronic communications firm, Yurie Systems, was acquired for $1 billion. And let’s not forget Under Armour founder Kevin Plank — it’s no secret where he went to school given his company’s elaborate Maryland Pride creations for the college’s sports teams.

The school’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship offers competitions, pitch practice, tech transfer opportunities and a network of angel investors. The university’s Hinman CEOs program was the nation’s first living and learning program for entrepreneurs.

Not to mention, UMCP’s undergraduate Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was ranked 15th in the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine’s report, and college rating website declared UMCP the fourth best college for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Underrated, perhaps, but does UMCP really have “zero reputation” for entrepreneurship?

131 Maryland companies make Inc. 5,000 list

Inc. Magazine released its Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies today, and a number of Maryland businesses made the ranks.

The number of such companies was slightly smaller than last year — 19 Maryland companies made the top 500 this year, and 131 made the top 5,000.  Last year, 20 companies made the top 500 and 157 made the top 5,000.

Inc. 5000

131 Maryland businesses are featured in the 2014 Inc. 5000 list.

The highest-ranking Maryland business on the list was NSR Solutions, based in Rockville, Md., which provides IT, medical staffing, recruiting, linguistic and engineering services. That company made $10.1 million in revenue in 2012 compared to $155,471 in 2009. That makes for a three-year growth of 6,392 percent.

The Inc. 500 and 5,000 are ranked based on each company’s revenue in 2009 and 2012. Each business on the list was founded before March 31, 2009 and remained privately held, for profit, independent and based in the United States until Dec. 31, 2012. Some of them have since gone public.

At the Hotel Monaco in Baltimore Tuesday morning, the Department of Business and Economic Development held a celebration for these Inc. 5000 businesses.

DBED Secretary Dominick Murray used the opportunity to speak about the second annual Invest Maryland challenge, which is currently seeking applications.

A diverse group of business representatives showed up to the event to celebrate their ranking, said DBED spokesperson Karen Glenn Hood.

Some of the fast-growing companies were small, such as, which has grown from two employees when it was founded in 2008 to a current eight. Other companies had large staff counts, while still experiencing growth.

“(The larger companies) were able to mentor the younger companies a little bit,” said Glenn Hood.